In the broadest sense of the term, feminism is about respecting women. At least that's what they used to say.
A long time ago things were actually bad for women in America (and many parts of the West). Their options in life were limited. Of course, we can say that most people's options were limited, considering factors like the lack of technology, education, communication, and transportation. If you were a farmer's kid in Wisconsin in the 1800's, chances were you had few opportunities outside of being a farmer- regardless of your gender.
But it was a reality that as society progressed and more options were opening up for men, there were cultural barriers that prevented women from achieving similar success. I've talked about in the past how my grandmother- despite serving her country as a biochemist during WWII- was limited to a career as a Home Ec teacher until she got married.
Reforms were made over the years that helped eliminate such barriers, making sure that women have equal access to education and career options.
But that wasn't enough, was it? There is a bigger problem that exists between men and women, and it has little to do with career opportunity.
Men are big, brutish pigs that treat women like objects, right? I mean all men are like that. Our society and culture- despite today being wildly liberal- still conditions men to be strong, masculine, over-all manly, to the detriment of their ability to respect women.
Despite all our gains for equality, there will always be men in the world that mistreat women. And while that is a bigger problem in say... Saudi Arabia, feminists in the West still feel that the very-much evolved men in our society have a problem with women.
Yes, there are terrible men in our society. There are men that abuse women, take advantage of women, or generally look down on them. There are men that seem to consider women as second class citizens, or at the very least have an inability to appreciate and respect the other gender.
But what is the solution? How can you overcome generations of cultural conditioning and the insurmountable influence of biology to create a man that truly respects womankind?
You could go the route of one mother, who feels the need to brainwash her young boy into becoming a pansy.
“If I want my son to respect women, I need to teach him to embrace the ‘girlish,'” writes The Globe and Mail’s Leah McLaren.
“The other day I was sitting in the park with James, 3, when I picked up a dandelion and handed it to him as a present,” writes McLaren. “‘No way, Mummy,’ he said, pushing away my gift. ‘Flowers are pretty and I’m a boy.'”
“And I thought: That’s it,” writes McLaren. “I’m signing him up for ballet.” (via Milo)
WTF!? There are so many things wrong with this story, I don't know where to start. Let's begin with the obvious: ballet.
This woman, a self-proclaimed "feminist mom" is working off some very flawed ideas, if she thinks ballet is "girlish."
You see, this is a major problem with much of the progressive left. While they claim to want to rewrite gender stereotypes for some nebulous goal of equality, they expose their own ingrained stereotypes and biases.
Who the hell thinks ballet is "girlish"? Throughout history, men have performed in ballet. Some of the most powerful, athletic, and masculine dancers have been in ballet (even professional athletes have practiced ballet to improve their performance on the field). In fact, many ballets couldn't exist without strong male dancers providing needed support.
This mother thinks that making her son do pliés will make him respect women more. Call me crazy, but I don't think three-year-olds have a problem with respecting women. They tend to be very attached to their mothers at that age. Three-year-olds are also very low on the list of people who beat, abuse, and oppress women.
She's also forgetting the fact that anyone, regardless of whether or not they're into ballet, can abuse women. You think just because Baryshnikov can twirl, he's a feminist?
But maybe this three-year-old child is a monster. Maybe he is a sexist just waiting to come out. Why does she fear this? Because he didn't want a flower?
Does liking flowers make you a feminist or just a florist in training? Does liking flowers mean you will automatically respect women as equals?
Again this mother is equating respect for an entire gender with superficial stereotypes, stereotypes created by that "cultural conditioning" she is blaming for her son's actions.
What is girlishness, anyway? Are flowers, ballet, or frilly things really inherently feminine? If so, what decided that? Decades, if not centuries, of cultural development, that's what. If equality between the sexes can only be achieved through the elimination of toxic cultural conditioning, then equating flowers and ballet with femininity must go too. Because even they can reinforce old stereotypes, right?
Then consider the real problem. How does a man grow up to respect women? Does it come through liking "girly" things? When I was growing up in the 80's and 90's, there were clearly defined lines between what the boys played with and the girls played with. While my sisters had Barbies, paper dolls, and pink, frilly items, me and my friends had Transformers, action figures, and plastic weapons.
Even though I was "bombarded" with masculine, aggressive imagery, I didn't feel the need to abuse or harass women. I still don't. My childhood love for trucks, robots, and action-packed comic books didn't turn me against women. Just because doilies aren't my thing, doesn't mean me or any other man will mistreat an entire gender.
So what made me want to treat women right? Was it the fact that I was exposed to "girly" things (which I wasn't), or was it because I had a good mother who taught me right? Was it because my mother forced me to take ballet (she didn't) or because I had a father who embodied male virtues while at the same time treating others (both men and women) with respect?
What McLaren is trying to do is find a loophole for good parenting. Her three-year-old boy is far too young to be "conditioned" by culture to reject girly things. He is simply acting out of his own personal preferences. There are plenty of boys who would have accepted that flower; that doesn’t mean they won't beat their wives.
If McLaren wants to see her son grow up to respect women, treat them equally, and appreciate what they have to offer, she needs to embody that in herself. Nobody respects someone who doesn't respect themselves, right? And don't children first look to their parents to learn how to live and act?
So does forcing a little kid into a strict, unfun dance program really make sense?
Perhaps McLaren's larger goal is not about teaching her son to respect women. Perhaps she, like many other feminists, has a grudge against manliness. It's natural for boys to be more physically inclined, to like dirt, sports, and aggressive activities. That doesn't make them sexist, it makes them normal.
Yet many modern feminists seem to be more concerned with deconstructing the very nature of men. This is because they believe it is manliness that is the root cause of sexism, not individual men who are assholes.
Perhaps McLaren wants to raise a man that lacks the basic drive that all men need, the drive to build, work with his hands, and accomplish greatness. Perhaps she despises the very nature of manliness and seeks to turn her little boy into a girl with a penis.
But the fact of the matter is, robbing men of their manliness will not achieve equality. It will only achieve in creating a generation of warped, frustrated men who are incapable of filling their natural gender roles. They will be so weak and anemic that few healthy women will want anything to do with them. These men will be forced to seek out unhealthy relationships with women, that will naturally result in abuse, mistreatment, and oppression.
And once again the cycle of sexism will continue.
The ultimately irony in McLaren's story is that in trying to undo the cultural conditioning of her son, she is subjecting him to an entirely new form of conditioning. One that's just as toxic.